Dietary fat gets a bad rap for contributing to unwanted weight gain and heart disease, but is it as bad as we have all learned to believe? In this post we hope to clear up any confusion related to the idea that all fats are bad. When eaten in moderation with appropriate choices, fat can be incorporated into a balanced and healthy diet.
Fats are an essential source of energy for our bodies. Below is a list of some of its many functions within the body:
- Supports healthy growth
- Protects our organs
- Keeps our bodies warm
- Helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins
- Produces important hormones.
Keep in mind: There are 9 calories for every gram of fat. This makes it more energy dense than carbohydrates (4 kcal/g) and protein (4 kcal/g). Consume in moderation! Fats should make up approximately 20-35% of your daily calories.
The types of fat you should limit:
Saturated: Fat molecules are saturated with hydrogen and contain no double bonds between carbon molecules. Eating foods with saturated fats raises your brisk of heart disease and stroke by increasing the level of cholesterol in your blood. Most are solid at room temperature (butter, coconut oil, lard)
Trans Fat: Formed through a process called hydrogenation to increase shelf life and improve texture. Associated with higher risks of CVD by raising LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreasing HDL (good cholesterol). Look for ‘hydrogenated oils’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ on the label.Sources include cakes, cookies, donuts, deep fried foods, crackers.
Cholesterol: Found in animal products only. Dietary cholesterol alone doesn’t contribute to high serum cholesterol. Studies have shown that high saturated fat and high carbohydrate diets can increase cholesterol.
The types of fat you should eat in moderation:
Unsaturated Fats: Fat molecules with one or more points of unsaturation. Typically liquid at room temperature (olive oil). Can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Found in most cooking oils, avocados, nuts and seeds and fatty fish.
Omega-3: Type of polyunsaturated fat. Useful in reducing inflammation, heart disease and stroke risk. American Heart Association recommends 2 servings of fatty fish per week such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines to help obtain the recommended amount. Omega-3s are also found in walnuts and flaxseeds.
Fats play an important role in the function of the body. They also contribute a slower to digest form of energy which can aid in satiety. However, because they are so energy dense – portion control is key. Be sure to check portion sizes on labels and stick to those to make sure you’re getting the appropriate amount.
Below is a little cheat sheet for you to summarize what we’ve discussed! Enjoy!